Patrols longest-serving woman retires

Staff Lieutenant Virginia L. Fogt retired this month as the Ohio Highway Patrol’s longest serving female.

There was a point early in her career when Virginia L. Fogt was the only woman working for the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“I was the fourth female to graduate from the Academy in Ohio. That was 1978. For a six-month period shortly after I started to work, I was the only female because the other three quit,” said Fogt.

By the time she retired earlier this month, the London resident had more company. Now, 9 percent of the Patrol’s ranks are women, which matches the national average and, in Ohio, amounts to 145 individuals. Upon her retirement, Fogt held the distinction of being the Ohio Patrol’s longest serving female.

“Back then, I didn’t set that as my goal,” she said. “When you’re a trooper (male or female), you have to have commitment to it. It’s not just a job, it’s a career.”

But it’s not the career Fogt had in mind when she left her hometown of Hillsboro, Ohio, in the early 1970s to enroll at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Upon earning a degree in business education and business administration, she took a job as a teacher in a school in Ohio.

“I figured out teaching was not for me,” she said.

That’s when she decided to pursue a line of work she first learned about during the summers of her college years.

“I had summer employment at Rocky Fork State Park (in Hillsboro). Troopers came in sometimes, and I got to know them,” Fogt said.

At the time, the Patrol had a minimum height requirement of 5-foot 8-inches and was attempting to recruit females. Fogt fit the bill, and the troopers suggested she sign up. When the teaching career didn’t work out, Fogt did just that.

She began training in 1977 as a member of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s 102nd Academy Class.

“I wasn’t positive it was what I wanted to do, but I was taught that once you start something, you finish it,” Fogt said. “The Academy was hard, physically. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I enjoyed it, so I stayed.”

Fogt earned her commission in April 1978 and was assigned to the former Bellefontaine Post. Within two years, she was asked to work in the Patrol’s Office of Recruitment and Training. There, she was able to counsel female officers who struggled with childcare needs and the transition into a military work atmosphere.

“The Patrol went through a period of time, through the mid-’80s, when it had trouble keeping females,” Fogt said, noting that the odd hours weren’t ideal for women with families. “Now, there are many female troopers who have families and successful careers.”

Striking a balance between home life and work weren’t the only challenges female troopers faced.

“There were men when I came on who didn’t think women should wear the uniform and do the job. There are still men who feel that way,” Fogt said. “They have a right to their opinion, but I say, ‘Let me do what I want to do.’ ”

She also said promotions for women were hard to come by. The Academy graduated its first female in 1977; the Patrol didn’t have its first female sergeant until 1987.

“But it’s a two-way street. Some women do not want that challenge. Part of it is the fear of the unknown,” Fogt said.

Through a combination of desire and opportunity, Fogt bucked the trend.

“I’ve been blessed because I have been offered a lot of opportunities because I’m a female,” she said, referring to the Patrol’s efforts over the years to bring women into more parts of the organization.

After transferring to Patrol headquarters for two years, where she worked in human resources and later in inspections and standards, Fogt got the itch to return to the field. So, in 1984, she transferred to the Circleville Post.

“That’s one of the great things about the job; there are a lot of possibilities. You can work in the field, in plain clothes investigation, as an instructor, in drug enforcement…You can have specialties or you can stay as a trooper.”

While at Circleville, Fogt earned a master’s degree in public administration from The Ohio State University. She returned to the Office of Recruitment and Training in 1989. Through several promotions between March 1990 and February 2003, she was assigned to the offices of Strategic Services and Recruitment and Training. In May 1993, she graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command.

In February 2003, Fogt was elevated to the rank of staff lieutenant and for more than four years led the Recruitment and Minority Relations Section. She transferred to investigative services in May 2007.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve the Patrol for 30 years. I enjoyed every moment of it,” Fogt said.

Col. Richard Collins, superintendent of the Patrol, stated, “On behalf of the Highway Patrol, I wish to express my appreciation for Staff Lieutenant Fogt’s dedication to the highway patrol and the State of Ohio for over 30 years. She is the first woman in the patrol’s 75-year history to reach this significant milestone.”

Fogt has lived in Madison County since 1989. She met her husband, retired Patrol Sgt. Richard Fogt, when they both worked at the former Bellefontaine post. They were married in 1982. Richard later worked at the West Jefferson Post, then at general headquarters before retiring.

Fogt is stepmother to Richard’s two children, Aaron Fogt of Columbus and Laura Burton of Bellefontaine. They have two grandsons, Nicholas and Connor.

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